The Tabakalera building was San Sebastians tobacco factory for 90 years (1913-2003). It was a state-owned factory, built on municipal land, after 25 years of complicated construction work. The tobacco factory was built following the style of old factory houses, around four large patios. It is one of the largest plots of land within the urban area of Donostia-San Sebastian: The main building is a rectangle measuring 113×75 metres.
Tabakalera’s high point was during the 1920s, when the production of cigarettes and cigars was mechanised. In 1925 over one thousand people worked there, the majority women.
During the second half of the 1960s, the factory went through another technological renewal and production reached 250 million packets a year. During this period it ceased to produce Farias cigars to specialise in cigarettes: Celtas, first, and Ducados and Davidoff from the seventies onwards.
After the tobacco industry was privatised in Spain, the new company – Altadis – closed eight of its factories, among them the one in San Sebastian, in 2003. Faced with this situation, San Sebastian City Council, the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa and the Basque Government purchased the building to turn it into an international culture centre.
Since April 2011 the Tabakalera building is undergoing renovation work. The rehabilitation is being carried out following the 3 en Raya project by Jon and Naiara Montero, which won the International Competition for the Architectural Renovation of Tabakalera held in 2008. The aim of this project is to adapt the former tobacco factory to the needs of a centre for contemporary culture. The most evident changes are taking place inside the building. To a large extent, the main facade is being left as it was, to preserve the building’s character.
In order to turn the former tobacco factory into a contemporary culture centre, it's open to the city, removing fences, surrounding walls… creating an internal street with free movement. A glass prism has been built to make the building more visible and to give the city another landmark. The centre’s spaces are hybrid and adaptable to a large variety of uses, and there is a new main entrance. Beside it, there is a space called Storage that preserves the original structure of the building, and somehow represents it's memory. Between september 2015 and september 2016, in the Storage you can find a project called Mañana goodbye - women working together, a 12-part series that explores the changing production model by which the old Tabacalera factory became the current International Centre for Contemporary Culture.
You can also follow this link to Makusi, Tabakalera's archive, to see, listen and read different perspectives about the renewal works of the building.